America: Painting a Nation

Art Life , Exhibitions Nov 08, 2013 No Comments

From Sharne Wolff

America: Painting a Nation is “the most expansive survey of American painting ever presented in Australia” with around 80 works spanning the years 1750 to 1966. While a show with a big sweep like this always has inherent risks – as London’s Royal Academy of Art has recently discovered with mixed reviews received for Australia – it’s also a chance for local audiences to engage with significant themes of the American art story, many of which mirror our own. The show promises to connect us with these common narratives while simultaneously presenting a unique American vision.


Names we’re already familiar with such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Georgia O’Keeffe and James McNeil Whistler hang beside works from artists many viewers won’t have seen. Highlights from the show, drawn from the collections of four major institutions from across the U.S., include Thomas Moran’s Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, a “hymn to the awe-inspiring scale of American space”, Henry Inman’s No-Tin (Wind), a Chippewa Chief, a conflicted portrait of a Native American leader painted in c.1832 and Stuart Davis’s 1953-54 modernist Something on the eight ball, a switch on the usual “behind the eight ball”. The latter painting draws inspiration from conversation on city streets and jazz music to produce a colourful and energetic abstract/text picture of life in post-war America.

Until February 9
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Pic: Thomas Moran Grand Canyon of the Colorado River 1892–1908. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Graeme Lorimer.

Sharne Wolff

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